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Prudent Fiscal Management

Thursday, January 15, 2015

I often think to myself that Keith Rowley epitomises the “Machiavellian” politician who is manipulative and generally self-serving. He and the PNM believe that “the end justifies the means” and will go to any lengths to destabilise the trust and goodwill which the nation reposes in the present PP Government.

My last two articles illustrated responsible fiscal management by the PP since assumption of public office. On Thursday, January 8, the Prime Minister, Mrs Kamla Persad-Bissessar addressed the nation on the state of the economy. The PM advised inter alia that the oil price upon which the 2014-2015 Budget was based would be adjusted downwards from US$80 to US$45 per barrel and also the new price for natural gas would be adjusted to US$2.25 per mmBTU.

The PM announced that there would be no cuts in social and educational programmes, jobs or major infrastructural development. The PM has not panicked and has assured us that there is no need to do so at this time. She has instead, mandated her ministers to cut their respective ministries’ budget and spending. We have not heard of austerity measures the likes of which have been employed by some European countries and for this we must be grateful. 

At no time did the Prime Minister say that her Government would be accessing the Heritage and Stabilisation Fund. This signals a cautious and careful approach to government spending which facilitates continued stimulation of the economy.

Notwithstanding, the population has been subjected to the agonising terror of Rowley and cohorts that we are somehow living in treacherous times and destined only for doom and gloom. The PM has made it clear that her address to the nation was not intended to be a budget speech rather “a broad overview of how we will be adjusting our policies to ensure that we maintain spending where it is necessary and scale back spending where we should.”

Ministers will provide the nation with details on all cutbacks very soon. The reasonable minded citizen would understand the need for maintaining investor confidence in the economy and commend the PP Government for seeking to avoid “sudden changes in the direction of economic development policies.” However, some media personnel have had a field day attributing unjustified headlines and levelling premature criticisms to the PM’s proposals.

Article headlines ranged from “Kamla failed massively in her response” to “Chamber knocks PM on budget adjustments.” People and business organisations are free to voice their criticisms of the Government on a critical matter of managing the economy. What is not desirable is the one-sided manner in which these criticisms are reported.

For example, the media have failed to properly highlight that the T&T Manufacturer’s Association welcomed the PM’s “vote of confidence” in the national economy. The TTMA has endorsed the PM’s decision to revise the budgeted oil and gas prices at this time. Her decision to reduce expenditure on infrastructure (PSIP) projects for which financing has not yet been committed, continued investment in long-term projects and the intention to divest specific State-owned enterprises also found support.

The American Chamber of Commerce of T&T also described the revision of oil and gas prices as prudent and the San Fernando Business Association described the PM’s proposals as a “good first-run review.” 

Rowley and the PNM’s approach to the economy at this time is very simple. Cause panic to diminish investor confidence and force the PP to implement unnecessary and unfavourable economic policies. This is evidenced by Rowley’s assertion that the IMF will end up “telling us how to rectify” the local economy.

This is typical Machiavellian “the end justifies the means” methods aimed at the PNM succeeding in the upcoming general elections. At the end of the day, they do not care whether the nation is worse off as a consequence of these detrimental tactics.

I fault the PP Government for its decision to maintain full funding with Carnival. I cannot imagine that we should sing and dance to the tune of some $314 million dollars whilst ministries make cut backs to save $7.5 billion dollars. Carnival in my view benefits a select few promoters and not the wider community in any meaningful way.

What has been appalling to me are news reports that a further $43 million dollars was sought by the Culture Minister to inject into Carnival. I wish to state categorically that more than 90 per cent of the Hindu Community traditionally stay away from Carnival when it clashes with observance of the popular Hindu festival, Maha Shiv Raatri (Worship of Lord Shiva).

This year Maha Shiv Raatri celebrations will be held on Carnival Tuesday evening into Ash Wednesday morning and yet again Hindus across the country will not be participating in Carnival 2015. I trust and hope that the police force give due consideration to the Hindus who would be travelling the roadways to access our many temples on that night.


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